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Not just the miners' strike
the Women's Liberation Movement in South Wales

Avril Rolph

The fact that there was a Women's Liberation Movement in Wales seems to come as a surprise to many people. Attitudes range from claiming it to have had very little impact; believing it to have been an English import in which native Welsh women were neither interested nor involved; to thinking it was something to do with women's role in the miner's strike of 1984-5.

The Welsh media has changed its attitude to women to some extent over the past decade and The Western Mail now regularly produces special issues featuring women's achievements in Wales. However, the changing role of women in Wales is almost invariably traced only from the 1980s, and the important influence of the WLM of the 1970s is virtually ignored.

The WLM in Wales emerged into a country with a tradition of strong socialist politics firmly based within an almost exclusively male hierarchy, and a sometimes rigid and puritanical and chapel-based morality. Issues of Welsh nationalism and the Welsh language are also relevant, and these are all factors which undoubtedly influenced the way the movement developed. It was active particularly in Cardiff and Swansea, the two major Welsh cities, but groups existed in many other areas including Aberystwyth, Newport, Pontypridd, Carmarthen and Bangor.

The movement can perhaps be characterised as being very practically based; as discussion and debate about women's oppression led to practical action in areas such as health provision for women, education, employment and domestic violence.

Using material gathered from interviews I've undertaken with women active in the WLM, plus information from newsletters, conference notes etc., I hope to give something of the flavour of the WLM as it existed in Cardiff and Swansea during the 1970s.

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